Plant/Nursery Outline

Goodness Grows In North Carolina
Plant/Nursery Outline

Association Name Commodity History Regional Information Production
Packaging Shipping Buying

I. Association Name: North Carolina Association of Nurserymen

A. Commodity Represented
Nursery and Greenhouse crops

B. Types of Commodity
There are currently over 2,000 different species of ornamental, fruit, and turf plants produced in the state of North Carolina. Every ornamental plant species used east of the Mississippi River can be grown in North Carolina.

C. Is there a National Promotion Month for the Commodity? When?
Arbor Day

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II. Commodity History

A. North Carolina Background
1. Is the crop originally from NC or did it originate elsewhere? Where?
There are many ornamental and fruit crops that are native to North Carolina. Many more have been imported from all over the world.

2. When was it brought to NC?
New plant varieties came to North Carolina with the original settlers, and have been introduced regularly ever since.

3. How was it brought to NC and by whom?
Some plants were brought by the first settlers, others have been introduced over the years. The late Dr. J. C. Raulston of North Carolina State University, was one of the most outstanding ornamental plant breeders and collectors of the 20th century. He introduced many plants both in our state and nationwide.

4. Was it brought to a specific region? Is this the same region in which it is now mainly grown?
As a rule, plants have been introduced into those regions where they grow best, such as rhododendron, mountain laurel, pieris and coniferous evergreens in the West, hollies, magnolias, osmanthus, etc., in the Piedmont, and Coastal Plains.

B. Uses
1. How is the product used?
Most nursery crops produced in North Carolina are used as ornamentals to beautify the world we live in. Smaller amounts of nursery stock is used in fruit production and forestry.

2. Has today's use changed from its original use?
Originally, most nursery stock produced in the state were fruit trees and fruiting plants.

3. If yes, how was it originally used and why was there a shift in use?
North Carolina has changed from a rural to an urban economy. As this change has occured the nursery industry has changed from fruit and nut tree production toward ornamental plant production. Most of this change has occurred over the last 50 years.

C. Industry Changes
1. How has technology changed the industry? What are some of these improvements/changes?
Technology has changed the nursery industry in many ways over the last 100 years. Prior to the development of the gas engine, all nursery stock was harvested and shipped bare-root, due to weight considerations. This limited the harvest and planting season to a few weeks in the springtime.

The development of trucks allowed plants to be shipped balled and burlapped, that is with a ball of soil attached to the roots. This extended the harvest season by 6 months or more, and allowed much larger plants to be harvested and shipped.

The development of mechanical harvesting equipment has greatly reduced the amount of labor required to handle plants. In addition, the development of plastic pots and soil-free growing media has allowed many nurseries to extend the harvest season to 12 months a year. These developments have also made many more plant varieties available on the market, such as plants which cannot be dug and shipped easily.

Another way technology has changed the industry is in the area of propagation. Traditionally, plants were grown from seed, and sometimes the parts of one plant were grafted or budded onto another. The development of synthetic rooting hormones allowed many more species to be propagated by rooting cuttings. The most recent development in plant propagation is micropropagation or tissue culture, where plants are "cloned" in a laboratory. This allows tens of thousands of plants to be propogated from a single parent plant in a short period of time.

2. How have the uses for the product changed over the years?
The development of new varieties has given landscapers and homeowners a much larger selection of plants to choose from.

3. Has consumption/use of the product increased/decreased? Why?
The use of ornamental plants has increased both with the increase in population and by individuals using more lawn and garden products, per capita, than ever before.

D. Future Outlook
1. How is the industry changing currently?
Mechanization and computers are changing this industry every day.

2. Are there any future projects that would change how the industry is maintained?

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III. Regional Information

A. Region
1. Where in the state is the commodity grown?
Nursery crops are grown state wide. In 1995-96 there were state inspected nurseries in 99 out of 100 counties.

2. If more than one location, where is it the most abundant? The least abundant?

3. Why can't it be grown in another section of the state? Or why the difference in production from area to area?
The ability of individual plant varieties to withstand temperature and moisture extremes determine where in our state they are grown.

4. When is the growing season?
The growing season varies greatly. Some plants are grown in greenhouses year-round. The other extreme would be in the high mountains, where the season extends only from late May to early September.

B. Climate
1. What kind of weather does the commodity like?
Each individual variety of plant has its own particular ideal climate.

2. Is there a specific condition the commodity needs (full sun, shade, etc.)?
Each individual variety of plant has its own particular ideal climate.

3. Are there ideal temperatures the commodity needs?
Each individual variety of plant has its own particular ideal climate.

C. Soil
1. What type of soil works best with this commodity? Why? Is it rich in a specific nutrient, etc.?
Each individual plant variety has it's own special needs. Many plants grown in North Carolina are not grown in soil at all, but rather in containers filled with soil free growing media.

2. Is there an ideal temperature for the soil?
Each individual plant variety has it's own special needs. Many plants grown in North Carolina are not grown in soil at all, but rather in containers filled with soil free growing media.

3. Do certain soil conditions increase crop production? If yes, what are they?
The single most common factor in soils for the nursery industry is drainage. Well drained soils are much easier to harvest plants from during the wet season.

D. Weather Conditions
1. In emergency weather conditions what precautions are taken? Are precautions usually preventative (advance) or reactive (as it occurs)?
Container grown plants are often covered, and/or placed in heated structures prior to the arrival of cold weather.

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IV. Production

A. Production Steps
1. When are seeds planted?
See below

2. What is the estimated time before sprouts appear?
See below

3. How long generally before the crop is ready to be harvested?
See below

4. Once the crop is taken from the ground where does it go? Is it stored somewhere before it is ready for use? Or does it get packaged right away? If stored, what is it stored in and why?
See below

*answer to questions 1,2,3,4

Production of nursery stock is handled in many different ways. Four general areas include propagation, bare-root production, balled and burlapped production, and container production.

Plants may propagated from seed by sowing the seed into rows, specially prepared seed beds, or containers filled with a soil-free growing mix. Another method of propagation involves taking cuttings from desirable plants and treating with a combination of mist, heat, shade, or extended light until they produce a root system.

A third method propagation involves taking parts of desirable plants and grafting or budding them into roots from another plant. The most recent development in nursery plant propagation is micropropagation. This process involves taking parts of desirable plants into a laboratory and treating them with special chemicals. These plant parts then begin to produce hundreds of tiny plants, which are then placed in containers to grow.

It takes anywhere from three months to three years from the time plants are propagated until they have developed a root system which will allow them to be moved. At this time they may either be sold, or transplanted into a different field or container.

Bare-root plant production involves growing plants in rows or beds for 1 to 3 years. These plants are then harvested by removing the plants and roots from the soil. These plants may then be sold, planted in soil again, or placed in containers to be grown into larger plants.

Balled and burlapped nursery production involves growing plants in soil until they reach the desired size, then digging them with a ball of soil around the roots. This ball is then wrapped security in burlap and rope. Balls of larger plants are dug mechanically and placed in wire baskets lined with burlap.

Container plant production involves growing plants in soil-free potting mix in plastic containers. The plants may be moved into progressively larger containers until they reach the desired size.

B. Production Materials
1. Is there any special equipment used during the whole production process? What are they?
Every phase of nursery production involves specialized equipment, and structures. These include but are not limited to: specialized lab equipment, propagation structures, tractors, tillage implements, sprayers, pruning equipment, many kinds of mechanical harvesting equipment, planters, transplanters, potting machines, cold frames, greenhouses, irrigation equipment.

2. How was the production process handled before technological developments? What types of machines, if any, were used in the process?
By human and animal labor

3. Are pesticides used in crop production? What are the most common types?
Herbicides are used to control weeds, insecticides to control insects and fungicides to control plant diseases.

C. Grading
1. Is there an inspection that the product must go through before being packaged/sold?

2. Is the inspection conducted by county, state, or national officials?

3. What agency is responsible for the grading/testing and setting the standards?
NCD&CS(North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services), Plant Industry Division, Plant Protection Section

4. How is the grading done? Is it for each individual piece, or per field, per farm, etc.?
Per field and per farm

5. Give a basic breakdown of the scale used and what it means
Plants are either "found apparently free of injurious pests and diseases" or their sale is prohibited.

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V. Packaging

A. Is the product usually sold fresh, frozen, dried, etc.?

B. If product is sold in a variety of ways what is the most common in NC?
Bareroot, balled and burlapped or container grown

C. Is the product packaged? If yes, how? (bags, boxes, bottles, etc)
Varies with product

D. Why is it done this way? Is it economical, prevents bruising, industry standard or for shipping purposes, etc.?
Industry standard

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VI. Shipping

A. Distribution
1. What is the most common method of distribution in your industry?
The ultimate destination for ornamental plants in North Carolina is property owners.

2. Is the product sold mainly to retail, food service, wholesale, specialty outlets or a variety of outlets? What is the most common?

3. Is the commodity exported? Domestically, internationally?
A large percentage of North Carolina nursery products are shipped to Northern and Midwestern states. A small percentage is shipped all over the world.

B. Transporting
1. How is the commodity normally transported (from farm to retail outlet)?
By truck transport and air transport

2. Does the transportation vehicle require special features? (Refrigeration, etc.)
The plants must be protected from wind and temperature extremes.

3. Have methods of transportation changed over the years? (Before automobiles, etc. how was it transported?) Or has method of transportation stayed the same? And if so, how is it done?
Yes. Before trucks, plants were shipped bare-root by rail and wagon

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VII. Buying

A. Product
1. What is the product used for? Are there different uses?
To beautify the world we live in

2. When purchasing/inspecting the commodity (at the store) how do you know it is fresh?
It is either alive or it is dead

3. Is there a trick to buying and finding ripe/fresh product? (Smell, thumping, shaking, color etc.)
Varies from species to species

B. Labels
1. Is your product required to carry a label?

2. Is there an industry standard for the label, or is it individualized for each company/producer/grower?

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Back to Teacher Commodity Page
AG's COOL Homepage

Other Links:
Official NCDA&CS Markets Ornamental Plants Page